Judge Decides That Political Speech Is A Campaign Contribution

This is down right scary.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Talk-radio hosts regularly discuss candidates and ballot issues, often with a particular point of view in favor of one or opposed to another.

Do those comments constitute a financial contribution to a campaign?

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham thinks they do. In a ruling issued Friday, Wickham said the comments and activities by KVI-AM (570) hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on behalf of the Initiative 912 campaign are in-kind contributions that must be reported to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Initiative 912 is an effort to repeal the legislatively enacted increase in the state gasoline tax. The deadline for submitting at least 225,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot is tomorrow.

The ruling was sought by the San Juan County prosecutor and city attorneys for Seattle, Auburn and Kent as part of a larger case involving contributions to the Initiative 912 campaign. Their argument is that the KVI hosts went beyond merely talking about the issue.

This is the same kind of regulation of political speech the FEC was (or perhaps still is) considering for application to blogging.

The problem with tying supportive speech of a political candidate or campaign to contributions to that campaign is that our government limits the amount of contributions any individual or company can make in a single election cycle. If some of the bureaucrats at the FEC get their way (or the judge’s ruling in the above story stands) a some sort of monetary value will be assigned to each blog post or radio segment and that value will be applied to the author’s political contributions. Once the author reaches the max he or she can contribute they’ll have to remain silent.

Now I ask you: How in the world is that sort of thing acceptable in a nation that prides itself on allowing free political speech? Since when did it become the province of our government, be it municipal, state or federal, to regulate the free expression of political thought by private citizens?

Rob Port is the owner and operator of Say Anything.

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